No Kool April Nites? No Problem. Creative Car-Lovers Plan Pop-up Cruises

If you’re in Redding on Saturday between 6 and 8 p.m., you may experience the unexpected sights, revving and rumbling of classic cars cruising through the city.

It doesn’t have an official location, but it does have a name: Covid April Nights Neighborhood Cruise. Unofficial or not, it’s happening. Watch for it. Listen for it.

Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to see hot rods, sleek convertibles, antique pickups and horseless carriages passing through your neighborhood, or along Redding freeways or city streets. Or maybe the closest you’ll get is via Facebook videos and photos shared by friends, and friends of friends.

Either way, for a few hours Saturday evening, more than 250 classic cars, trucks and other specialty vehicles will come roaring to life and take to Redding’s streets.

The timing is intentional, yet bittersweet. This is the very weekend Redding’s annual Kool April Nites was supposed to have taken place, had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused most of the world to shut down all public gatherings.

Each year Kool April Nites attracts thousands of car enthusiasts to Redding for one weekend of entertainment, dances, parades, Show ‘n’ Shines and parties. But this year Kool April Nites organizers cancelled the April 18-26 2020 event, just as organizers of most other U.S. public events cancelled and/or postponed anything and everything that brought people together and put them at risk of sharing the deadly virus.

Concerts, funerals, graduations, birthday parties, retirement parties, religious activities, sports, Easter egg hunts and weddings. And yes, car shows. All cancelled.

Adding insult to injury, this weekend should be beautifully warm and sunny, with not a raindrop on the horizon, something many previous Kool April Nites events couldn’t claim.

But it takes more than a global pandemic to shut down car enthusiasts like Rick and Mishael Sherman. Rick, a long-time north-state resident and owner of R&R Auto Truck Repair in Shasta Lake City, will join hundreds of his fellow drivers of cool vehicles who’ll cruise throughout Redding streets. Some drive-bys will also pass near a few assisted living facilities, where sheltered-in-place residents can admire the vehicles from socially-safe distances.

Sherman, a self-described official gearhead, is a father of five and grandfather to eight. He’s had his automotive repair shop since 1983, and is fond of the north state, especially the outdoors. And of course, he is a fan of cars.

And although he’s not affiliated with the Kool April Nites organization, Sherman and some car-loving friends felt the loss of the event. They put their heads together to find a way to comply with the pandemic’s social distancing requirements, while still have some fun on the very weekend that would have historically featured so many car-related activities.

“We’re trying to be community-minded, while respecting social distancing guidelines so everybody can just enjoy themselves,” he said.

Sherman described Saturday’s citywide cruises as organic and loosely organized.

“We are not gathering groups of people together,” he said. “There are no permits necessary, and in fact, it could be said there are no laws on the books that would regulate such an event.”

Ideally, every Redding neighborhood could see dozens of classic cars rumbling down their streets. But that’s impossible. Even so, people like Rick Sherman and his fellow car enthusiasts worked creatively within the constraints of the pandemic and state regulations to bring a little joy to as many people as humanly possible.

If all goes well, this time next year the worst of the pandemic will be over, and events like Kool April Nites will return. And who knows, perhaps some regular Kool April Nites entrants will participate in Saturday’s informal cruises, treating as many Redding city streets to the sight of classic cars as possible.

Me? I’ll be on my front porch, cocktail in hand, just in case.

But in the meantime, Rick and Mishael Sherman will be driving Redding’s streets in their 1971 Mach I Mustang.

Mishael and Rick Sherman.

And if you’re in Redding, and you have a classic car or extraordinary vehicle you’d like to show off, Saturday evening might be your chance to dust it off and take it for a spin through your neighborhood for your own private cruise.

“We all enjoy cars,” he said. “We thought it would be a great idea because it’s Kool April Nites week, to get the cars out of the garage and put smiles on people’s faces in the community. We are doing all we can to make this a fun event in these terrible times.”

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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